Mustang Movie Review

Genre: Drama
Year: 2016
Rating: M
Starring: Güneş Şensoy
Doğa Doğuşlu
Elit İşcan
Running time: 97 minutes
Country: Turkey, France, Germany
Language: Turkish
Written by:
Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Alice Winocour
Directed by: Deniz Gamze Ergüven

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Mustang is the first foreign movie I have reviewed. My first taste of reviewing foreign films has been great. This is a movie with a premise that could have filled with clichés and tiresome movie tropes. But with the direction of Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Mustang manages to portray the characters and themes with a delicate grace and effortless beauty.

Mustang tells the story of these five girls living with their conservative father and grandmother. These girls are at the period in their life where they want fun and liberation from their strict rules and guidelines that they live. They are not allowed games or, phones or any form of entertainment. The movie shows the battle between the girls choosing their destiny and their father and grandmother who want to choose it for them.

I thought the performances from everyone was great, especially the father. I believe that he was important in the story, as was nearly everyone in the movie. It is hard to find a bad performance. The father brought edge-of-your-seat tension in the climatic scene and his young daughter called Lane is a girl that represented the purest form of freedom and wonder. All the young girls want to break free from the traditions of their household, but she plays the guiding light amongst all of them. She plays the role beautifully and with such conviction. She is guided well by a great cinematographer.

Speaking of the cinematography it is a delight to see. The cinematographers David Chizallet Ersin Gok make the whole movie easy to watch as it is either shot in a way that makes you feel relaxed while watching it or he would get better close-up angles that made me understand why these girls want to have fun. The movie shows that fun is natural and you understand why these characters break the rules of their household. The story doesn’t celebrate hedonism. It celebrates freedom as a cathartic experience. The cinematographers aren’t as great at shooting sublime awe-inspiring things like Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life, Gravity, The Revenant) but is great at small, minimal things that create beauty and life toward a scene.

The script is also well written. There are lines that deliver great poignancy and emotional payoffs are earned. There are also a couple of comedic lines and quips that worked while not breaking the brevity of the moment. There is a scene where one of the girls is going to be given as a dowry (which she doesn’t want but is being forced to) and she is at the family table with her soon-to-be husband. The grandmother says to her “how well do you know each other” and she responds “by face” with contempt in her body language and facial expression. The scene worked really well by the delivery of the line and it makes me chuckle a little, yet I understood her pain. There are also funny lines that the grandmother says that are just brilliant. She gets one scene to herself and she owns it.

There is an emotional payoff at the end of the movie that was shot so well and it was so uplifting and I thought, “This is a great movie”. No sooner should that thought enter my head that there is an even better emotional payoff at the final shot in the movie. This is a movie that had a premise that could have been overused tripe, but the filmmakers turned it into something that is impressive and so awe-inspiring. This movie is one of the rare exceptions where it is predictable, but you want the movie to go the predictable path because they portray an overused story from a different perspective and turned it on its head. I think if they did twists in the movie, it would have hurt the movie. I was glad that that didn’t happen.

Mustang is a different film that breaks from the mold through its directorial approach. Instead of loud action movies with tons of special effects or a comedy that tries too hard to make us laugh Mustang is a movie that shows simplicity. It gives you air to breathe, it is two hours longs and feels like 90 minutes. It is a movie that is life-affirming despite the dark themes that surround it. Mustang is an undeniably great film. ****3/4

Independence Day: Resurgence Review

Genre: Action
Year: 2016
Rating:M
Runtime: 120 minutes
Main Cast: Liam Hemsworth
Jeff Goldblum
Jessie T. Usher
Bill Pullman
Maika Monroe
Main Production Company: Centropolis Entertainment
Written by: Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods
James Vanderbilt
Directed by: Roland Emmerich

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Independence Day Resurgence is a sequel twenty years in the making (not really but you get the point) and has a lot of hype. I went into Independence Day Resurgence with an open mind, but after about 10 minutes in, that went out the door. There are a couple of scenes and elements to it that were awesome but the movie was mostly boring.

The story, when you boil it down, is pretty basic. Aliens come back to earth after twenty years and it’s up to Jake Morrison, (Liam Hemsworth) David Levinson, (Jeff Goldblum) Dylan Dubrow-Hiller, (Jessie Usher) et. al. to save the earth once again from space aliens. Oh, and the protagonists get help from an intelligent white spherical robot and various defense systems.

This movie is like the original Independence Day except bigger, louder and no Will Smith. If you need any proof that it’s bigger, you just need to look at the ship. It’s the size of half the earth. It’s clear from the outset that director Ronald Emmerich wanted the movie to be a technical exercise and it mostly succeeds on that level. I thought the CGI looked good especially with how the main villain moved fluently despite his large structure. The millions of ships were ok from a CGI standpoint. Finally, I thought some of the stuntwork was awesome.

Now onto the negatives…

The movie was boring on multiple levels. The dialogue, the pacing, the acting, the humorless gags and the predictable story. Five minutes into watching the movie, I wrote “The dialogue is bad, I’ve heard worse, but it’s bad” some of the dialogue felt unnatural, other times it just didn’t make much sense. Unfortunately, I didn’t write down what any character said but I had the constant feeling that none of the dialogue connected with me, or felt natural with the “end of the world” situation they were in.

Another fault in the movie was the horrifically slow narrative pacing due to too-many-character-syndrome and the repetitive gags. The pristine example comes from Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner) who awakens from a coma that lasted, you guessed it, twenty years! He gets the bad comedic gag of his bum showing out of his hospital gown. The gag wasn’t funny the first time (or the other times they tried it). Dr. Brakish Okun doesn’t need to be in the story. I believe he was only there to nostalgia to the hardcore Independence Day fans. He wasn’t the only one that was needlessly there either.

Finally, the story was highly predictable filled with bad melodrama. The “romantic” subplot felt rushed for the popcorn filling special effects show. Normally, I would be against this movie, but the romantic elements between the Liam Hemsworth and Maika Monroe characters were so cookie cutter I was half-relieved they did not get lots of screen time together. You get the usual “I want to live in a house with you” line said by the woman just before the man leaves for his deadly mission cliche. You also get the sidekick who says “you are the only friend I have ever had” said by Travis Tope’s character. Despite the brevity of these lines and scenes, it still felt tedious.

With the combination of thirty-minute character introductions, romantic melodrama, wooden acting with bad dialogue, Independence Day Resurgence is a two-hour cinematic slog that is not worth the climax of a twenty-minute action sequence. The movie is also explicit that there will be another installment at the ending. I pray that doesn’t happen. *1/2

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Genre: Adventure comedy
Year: 2016
Rating: G
Runtime: 94 minutes
Main cast: Ray Romano
John Leguizamo
Denis Leary
Simon Peg
Production company:Blue Sky Studios
20th Century Fox Animation
Written by: Michael J. Wilson
Directed by: Mike Thurmeier
Galen T. Chu

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Ice Age: Collision Course is the fifth movie in the Ice Age franchise. It is also a blip in the time pool of cinematic history. There is nothing wrong with Ice Age: Collision Course but the franchise has merely become a cash cow to bring in a steady stream of revenue. At a time where women drag their boyfriends to see Me Before You and where men drag their girlfriends to see Warcraft, Ice Age Collision Course is one of the many movies where kids will drag their parents to the multiplex.

Scrat’s pursuit of the elusive acorn catapults him into the universe where he accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that transform and threaten the Ice Age World. To save themselves, Sid, Manny, Diego, and the rest of the herd must leave their home and embark on a quest to stop a giant meteor from destroying the earth.

When I was at the cinema, there was a father with his toddler and myself. That was it. Twenty minutes in the kid cried. The father and child left. I stayed. I was alone. The room was as empty as my brain as I watched Ice Age 5. It was easy to process, but hard to sustain. It is entirely forgettable. The reason I said Ice Age 5 is a cash cow is because the franchise is huge, lasted nearly fifteen years, makes a steady stream of income while persuading its consumers they are offering something new and superior when it isn’t.

Ice Age: Collision Course is a story that won’t be enjoyed by anyone over nine. It is essentially a more-of-the-same-but-let’s-amplify-everything-to-make-it-look-like-it’s-better strategy implemented by Blue Sky Studios. They decide to include all the characters from the previous four movies instead of narrowing their focus a couple of characters. It felt disjointed at times. In this case, more characters did not work for the movie.

Another thing they do to amplify sameness is by making the characters zanier. If only Blue Sky Studios learned from the Alvin and the Chipmunks sequels, they could have avoided doing that strategy. It just comes off as a B-grade product. If you saw the difference in character movements between the first movie and this one, you will be alarmed. From the restrained but lovable Manny the mammoth to the hip-hop dancing thing he has become. It is not a pretty sight. It is like looking at two photos where one is Hannah Montana and the other picture is Miley Cyrus’ cover photo of her latest album (her dead pets) Manny is not a trainwreck like that but it is as sad in my mind.

Finally, the other thing they amplify is the growing absurdity of the plot. From the rescuing of a child in the original to beating the global warming meltdown, then surviving dinosaurs, then surviving the tectonic plate shifts of the earth to now stopping an asteroid from outer space by throwing crystals in an active volcano. See the gradual absurdity even for the universe they’re in? There are several space sequences where Scrat is trying to get his acorn. Those sequences are visually entertaining but only for the time the sequences were on. The space sequences were only really good as a plot device used only once near the climax of the movie to gain tension. That is about it.

Despite their “bigger is better” approach Ice Age 5 offers little to the imagination. Aside from the colorful animations, one or two good scenes and overly zany characters to keep kids entertained there is not much that the movie offers. It is not frustrating, cringeworthy or boring but it is empty, which is not as bad, but it’s not good. With all the space elements, I really felt the franchise has jumped the shark. If there is another sequel, I hope they stripped down less-is-more approach next time. **

Warcraft Movie Review

Genre: Action/fantasy
Year: 2016
Rating: M
Runtime: 123 minutes
Main Cast: Travis Fimmel
Paula Patton
Ben Foster
Dominic Cooper
Main Production Companies:Legendary Pictures,
Blizzard Entertainment
Written by: Charles Leavitt, Duncan Jones
Directed by: Duncan Jones

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Written by Nelson Cumming

I have a problem with movie adaptations if none of the elements from the source material translates well on the big screen for a casual viewer. The reason is because it’s like running into a brick wall that simply won’t budge. That is a situation that I experienced with Warcraft. Warcraft is boring for a plethora of reasons and is a cross between Gods of Egypt and The Divergent Series: Allegiant in terms of its atmosphere of boring CGI overload crossed in with actors acting like the story has substance. If you do not understand what MMORPG stands for it is likely you are not the demographic it’s going after. I think it will satisfy fans of the franchise but there is little for anyone else to enjoy.

Looking to escape from his dying world, the orc shaman Gul’dan utilizes dark magic to open a portal to the human realm of Azeroth. Gul’dan organizes the orc clans into a conquering army called the Horde. King Llane, the mighty warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and the powerful wizard Medivh attempt to protect Azeroth. As the two races collide, leaders from each side start to question if war is the only answer.

At the start of the movie, they show a heavily pregnant orc go into a battleground, through a massive portal, then gets her first contractions. When she has her child, it looked like one of the babies in Shrek turned into a demon spawn and the leader of the orcs grabs the putrid baby and holds it high into the air in front of the tribe. This was like the scene in The Lion King where Rafiki the monkey is holding Simba at Pride Rock, only that in Warcraft, it is a hundred times more grotesque. Then the camera cuts to black and the title card shows “Warcraft” in big letters covering the screen as if I was going to see something epic…

At that point I thought “holy s***”, and not in a good way.

After that scene, I thought that this would be so bad that I would be entertained by its badness, but the movie was boring. All of the characters were uninteresting and one note, all the characters names have the middle ages names that are hard to remember (like Gul’dan, Garona, Medivh, Durotan, Khadgar) It also doesn’t help that all the Orcs look similar and that they have tooth rings on their overly large canines that distracted me throughout the movie.

I just thought the movie existed to show CGI. They make it very
apparent, especially in the scenes where the wizards showed their magic. The CGI is cool the first time you see it but gets boring and tiresome after awhile. It’s kind of like going on a Ferris wheel, the first time it is fun, the tenth time you get very bored and want to get off the thing. They have the same colour palette for every spell and that is while with a bright blue tinge like the texture of dry ice. The only time that is different occurs when the portal opens and admittedly that looked cool.

So I have pretty much painted the picture that the characters and the CGI are pretty much one-note, well so is the plot and character development and the action decent but not remarkable. But the story also plods on and on. They had scenes in the movie where they either cut or fade to black, making me believe the movie ended, only to find that they had another scene. That happened three times. It was a cocktease in my head. Actually, it was worse than a cocktease because a cocktease means that you were sexually attracted to someone only to find out that the partner had no interest in you, with Warcraft it is like teasing that the boredom and suffering were going to end, but it didn’t!

Warcraft will win over the hardcore gamers, I just know it. They will love it to bits. To me, it was just boring because of the plodding story, character development, the characters and the CGI mostly being one note and going on for too long. I heard a Youtube comment on critics channel saying the movie should be three to four hours long. I yelled “No!” at the screen. Half a star goes for the CGI working once in the movie. 1/2 *

P.S. For those who don’t know 1/2 * is not a typo for one and a half stars, that actually stands for half a star.

Finding Dory Movie Review

Genre: Adventure
Year: 2016
Rating: G
Runtime: 103 minutes
Main Cast: Ellen Degeneres
Albert Brooks
Hayden Rolence
Ed O’Neill
Production Companies: Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures
Written By: Andrew Stanton
Victoria Strouse
Directed by: Andrew Stanton

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Finding Nemo swims in the ocean, a whale, a seagull and a drainpipe. Finding Dory is a movie that swims in the ocean, down the drainpipes, across water enclosures and rides on the surface while plunges underground into our hearts (Even a soulless critic like myself can be very corny). Finding Dory is a movie that has a heart and most of the elements work. There are a couple of interesting things that I have picked up. Some are easy to spot and some are not. Either way, this movie is great. It is the best movie I have reviewed in awhile.

The premise is that Dory (Ellen Degeneres) is a Blue Tang fish who travels to California to find her parents. The problem is that she suffers from short-term- memory loss so she needs a lot of help in the form of an octopus called Hank (Ed O’Neil) , a shortsighted whale shark called Destiny (Katlin Olson) and both Marlin and Nemo as well as many others to help find Dory’s way back home

What is so great about Finding Dory (and Pixar in general) is that not only is their heart in the right place, but they are innovative at portraying themes in ways I can connect. There are many ideas in Finding Dory, but the main idea was overcoming self-adversity in my opinion as Dory is forgetful, but she is aware of that, making that mental barrier more challenging for her.

Another thing I found particularly interesting is the interplay between her memory and her subconscious. The only time Dory can remember is if any of the characters say something that triggers in her subconscious. Those memory triggers serve as the plot devices for the entire movie. This move by Pixar grabbed my curiosity. It was a good move as it related to Dory’s character progression. It looks like I need to see Inside Out again to revise my understanding of psychology and memory.

The other character that I think all the children will love is Hank. Hank, while not cute and cuddly, is entertaining. He is an octopus (or a septopus, depending on your interpretation) who is the straight character. He plays an important role as the octopus that goes astray from his enclosure that tries to find Dory’s parents. Hank also hates kids (and for good reason) which are portrayed in a scene done in a similar fashion with Toy Story 3. I don’t know how Pixar made me think about land mines in that scene, but they did.

There are other supporting characters in this movie that are mainly there for the comedy. A lot of the comedy works. The seals are funny as well as the psychotic bird that looks like he has raved at a party for three days straight while still on speed. Finally Destiny, the whale shark was funny, but the one gag she does is over-repetitive (the gag she does is repeated about 10-25 times, no exaggeration) but she is sweet and sincere enough to be likable.

There are also two scenes that were done professionally by Jeremy Lasky, who is the cinematographer. There is one scene which is in first-person where Dory is being swept by stormwater drains as she is dumped into the ocean which was really good at giving us the feeling of despair. The other scene was the use of slow motion at the climatic moment of a car chase which was also spectacular (Yes, there is a car chase in Finding Dory, it is hard to believe) and gave us the image of liberty.

Despite all this praise about how great this movie was (and it was), I don’t think this quite matches up with the more memorable Pixar movies because I thought it was not as powerful (my hankey was dry). I still think Finding Nemo was better. I can also think of about six or seven other movies that Pixar made that could trump Finding Dory, to be honest. That is not a negative criticism but it is an observation (I just think it is wrong as a critic to say “this is the best movie ever” without meaning it). I believe that Finding Dory is a great movie and is a worthy addition to the Pixar canon ****

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of the Shadows Review

Genre: Action comedy
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Length: 112 minutes
Main Cast: Megan Fox
Will Arnett
Stephen Amell
Production company: Paramount Pictures
Written by: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec
Directed by: Dan Green

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Written by Nelson Cumming

When I saw the same cast and crew from the original ninja turtles moving making the sequel I admit that my expectations bar was appropriately lowered. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was a surprise as they exceeded my expectations, but it was not enough for me to enjoy. This movie is an improvement on the original but there were many distracting elements that you would get from a Michael Bay movie, which hampered the quality of the film (I know he didn’t direct it, but he produced it). Thankfully, they tone the Michael Bay-ness down several notches for this one but his presence was still all over the movie, which hurt the overall viewing experience for me.

Shredder has broken free from law enforcement and has returned to terrorize New York. He is teleported to the main antagonist called Krang. Krang wants shredder to collect three hidden components of a machine that will serve as a gateway between Earth and Krang’s world. This is so Krang and come back to Earth and executes his plan to destroy New York. The Turtles (obviously) must try and stop Krang before it is too late.

For what it’s worth, Out of the Shadows tries to have meaning and depth. I am not so sure it tried hard, but the fact it tried means this movie can be salvageable. They have a kernel of ideas that are touched on but are not explored. One of the ideas that resonated with me was the moral conundrum of changing your outward appearance to be accepted into society. When I saw that idea played in a scene I was surprised. I wanted them to play around with that idea throughout, but you only get a scene and a half with that idea before that message gets lost in the subpar action and secondary characters.

The other good thing OotS has going for it is that the main characters, the turtles, are mildly interesting. Yes, I did not mind them but no, I did not care about them. This is mainly because throughout the movie I did not get the impression that the turtles were struggling in any way (be it a physical fight or an identity crisis) and the movie made them clear-cut babyface heroes. If a clean-cut babyface hero does not struggle with anything, how can I really get invested into them? I can’t. The turtles mainly do parkour around buildings and try to be entertaining to the kids, but they do not have the crossover appeal to get me into it. That said, they are not repulsive or bad. They just didn’t resonate with me.

As a critical thinker at the movies, I have developed a sensitive bulldust detector in my mind, from seeing roughly two movies a week. I don’t like it when I have to see the same thing over and over again. I was alarmed when my detector noticed no overuse of explosions (a big plus), what my detector did not like was nearly every other Michael Bay convention permeated throughout the movie. Excessive product placement, check; Megan Fox being sexually provocative just to bring the smut male audience into the movie, check; and really terrible dialogue, check, check, check. It is distracting and adds nothing. These Michael Bay shenanigans helped make one of the worst pieces of dialogue since London has Fallen

A basketball player slips on some pizza during a game (accidently dropped my Michelangelo from far above the rafters) The player grabs his ankle and screams “My Nike, My Nike, there is pizza on my Nike! Referee, I can’t play with pizza on my Nike!” and the referee responds with “welcome to New York”. This exchange of dialogue was very cringeworthy. It had explicit and repetitive product placement, which made the dialogue completely unnatural and unrealistic (He should have said “Ah! My foot!” or “There’s pizza on my shoe!”). I have an ear for bad dialogue, the scriptwriter didn’t.

Overall I am pleased that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was better than expected, yet it is not really good enough for me to enjoy. At least the turtles had likable qualities to them and I wasn’t thinking “green screen” when there was CGI involved. This movie is harmless. Harmless fun is stretching it. **

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Genre: Action comedy
Year: 2016
Rating: M
Length: 129 Minutes
Main Cast: Mark Ruffalo
Morgan Freeman
Daniel Radcliffe
Jessie Eisenberg
Woody Harrellson
Dave Franco
Lizzy Chaplin
Production Company: K/O Paper Products
Written by: Ed Soloman
Directed By: Jon M. Chu

 

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Having seen the original, “Now You See Me 2” is exactly what I predicted it would be: An entertaining but forgettable movie that you see over a weekend and leave it all in the cinema. A good and a bad thing all at once, but mostly a disappointing thing. The demographic will like it but offers nothing new to the series that would persuade more people to see it. There were slightly more bad than good elements in this movie the more I think about it. Overall, Now You See Me 2 does not offer much of a story more so than magic spectacles. At least the magic shows were entertaining enough in of itself to not kill the movie entirely.

The Four Horsemen return for a second mind-bending adventure, elevating the limits of stage illusion to new heights and taking them around the globe. One year after outwitting the FBI and winning the public’s adulation with their Robin Hood-style magic spectacles, the illusionists resurface for a comeback performance in hopes of exposing the unethical practices of a tech magnate. The man behind their vanishing act is Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), a tech prodigy who threatens the Horsemen into pulling off their most impossible heist yet. Their only hope is to perform one last, unprecedented stunt to clear their names and reveal the mastermind behind it all

I have two major problems about Now You See Me 2 that I have recently grown tired of. The first is they constantly do all these twists and turns that it becomes an M. Night Shyamalan twist-fest. The other problem is the writers use the concept of magic to explain away the plot instead of embedding logic and reason behind it.

For the plot twist problem, I will bet anyone a million dollars that Morgan Freeman just said his lines during filming because he could not keep track on the various times he switches sides in the movie. In a way, I felt sad for him. A casual viewer will probably say “oh it is interesting that he is just tricking us this whole time” my response would be “They did those meaningless twists constantly just to get a cheap rise out of you because the writers could not think of anything else to do!” As a critic, I don’t accept things in a movie because they exist, the movie needs to give me a convincing reason to care. To put it simply: I did not bite.

Now to elaborate on the second big problem I had with the movie which was the overuse of magic as a plot device. I think the writers tried to exploit the concept of magic to cover plot holes and to relieve themselves of writers block. There are so many scenes that are leave threads hanging and by the time they are explained, they raise more questions than they answered. People were in different positions between when the act was performed and explained. The story was just too convoluted for me to care.

Now for some of the good parts in the movie. There is one amazing scene in the middle that involves the Four Horsemen sneaking a computer chip out of law enforcement. I don’t know if it was cameras or special effects (probably both) but the camera will be zoomed in on the computer chip as it has been thrown around between the Four Horsemen. It is hard to explain the action but it was a delight to see. It was a great act of espionage which was uniquely done. It was so good that I broke the cinema code of conduct and said “this is great” out loud. It was a memorable and quirky scene.

Another good touch was the addition of Daniel Radcliffe and Lizzy Caplin. They sounded witty enough for the parts they have to play and Radcliffe was a good decision for this magic-themed movie (For anyone who as lived under a rock in Mars Daniel Radcliffe was the titular character in the Harry Potter franchise). He is bad a living off- the-grid though as Radcliffe’s character resides in one of the most lavish places in Macau, the Las Vegas of Indonesia. But that is the writers fault, not Daniel’s. On a side note, I felt sorry for Daniel because, in the movie Grimsby, his persona got AIDS in the weirdest way possible.

But overall the main problem is with Now You See Me 2 is that the plot twists and the elaborate tricks are things you expect instead of being a surprise. It is like a street magician performing a basic card trick and knowing exactly what twists and turns they do. Once you see the palming, the stealing, the simulations the ditching, the loading and the misdirections, the illusion is gone. When I initially saw the movie, I thought it was a good movie, but as I wrote, I was wondering what I was defending. There were lots of entertaining stuff that did not hold a lot of value. This made the movie bad, but there was enough to not make the movie awful *3/4